Super Mario Kart

It’s finally here – the SNES Online and rather than wait months for the top tier titles to be released (and if Nintendo were even considering it), they’ve only gone and released Super Mario Kart as a launch title! Now, this is real progress. Take that SNES Mini! We didn’t need you, after all.

Hands down, Super Mario Kart, was one of my favourite driving games growing up. I’d go far as to say that I liked it so much, I preferred it more than school. The controversy! How could anyone prefer anything to school? Am I right? Hell yeah, I am.

I didn’t own Super Mario Kart at first as a friend loaned it to me as he was spending all his time on a WWF game (yeah, the olden acronym for WWE as this story is from the golden ages) so asked if I wanted to give it a try. Sure did. I was getting a little tired of Super Mario All-Stars and needed some variety. Eventually, he let me keep the game for free. Nutter.

Time To Go Through The Register

There were eight, and still are, characters to choose from in the beginning. My first option was always going to be Mario. Not because he was the only one I was familiar with, but because he was just so handsome. Who doesn’t like a moustache? Exactly. So, I couldn’t go wrong with him, and that’s who I was for the majority of my time playing the game.

Character selection screen
Choose your warrior

I experimented with some of the others. It wasn’t the 60s and I wasn’t in college, but I gave Peach a go, Toad and then Bowser. At this time, I wasn’t really getting that each character has their own style. With Bowser, I was going for aesthetics and he looked badass. Toad and Princess were probably the weakest characters for me in Super Mario Kart, and I rarely played them.

Luigi was more or less the same as his brother and doing his usual ‘living in his brother’s shadow’, and Yoshi was crap – I wasn’t really that familiar with him as only encountered him in Super Mario World, and all he did was swallow fruit whole. Eventually, common sense would have prevailed, and he would have choked, but, low and behold – he’s got his own franchise. Fools.

Having Friends Around Makes Matters Complicated

This is the part of Hotel Reminicise, where I realise the fundamental flaws of some of the characters. I had some friends come around after school regularly, and this was our go-to game outside Streetfighter II. Though I was slaying the 50cc stages, coming out on top on 100cc but awful on the 150cc races, I was getting my arse handed to me in multiplayer.

Playing against a person, if you can call them that, is fantastic but also challenging. AI is usually predictable and in earlier games, paint-by-numbers. With one of your mates, they were loose cannons and could change their game up at any time. My issue was that they already knew the strengths and weaknesses of each character, and they also knew… the super start.

The island race and Princess is in 3rd place
After a few splashes, back on track

The super start, which probably isn’t the proper name, was where you timed when you held down to accelerate to get a decent headstart in the form of a boost. I wasn’t paying attention as we’d usually be throwing out insults from the grids, so neither listened to their engines or paid attentions to buttons presses. This was the immediate handicap.

Big Isn’t Beautiful, It’s Slow and Awkward

I would almost always choose Bowser as he was the main bad guy, and with his bulk, I could ram my opponents out of the way. On occasion, I would switch to Donkey Kong. If you haven’t played it yet (of course you have!), both Bowser and Donkey Kong are the fastest in Super Mario Kart. That is, they have the highest top speed. Their acceleration is a steaming turd. So, you’d understand that getting a good headstart was vital.

Aside from the headstart, it was also when you would crash, you’d have to accelerate from a standstill while all the other racers left you behind. Worse, as they were going faster, regardless of size, you’d spin out. Finishing 6th or 7th was usually a good run.

The alternative would be to switch to Peach. Her acceleration, like Toad’s, was awesome. I soon found myself ahead of the pack early on, but later overtaken by Bowser or Donkey Kong, as my friends knew that they had the better top speed and that they were also genuinely better than me, so they could maintain the pace without fear of crashing.

The first Ghost Valley track
Managed to keep them off this long…

Coming Out of My Shell

Finally, I played Koopa Trooper. Why I would want to play a grunt like him was basically a last-ditch attempt to win a race or two. It’s not like he’ll be any good, right? This is where I turned it around, and Koopa Trooper was the person to play in Super Mario Kart.

He’s such a good all-rounder that he can counter most playing styles if used correctly. He also helped me improve in the game. Turtle power. By now, it was even Stevens, and it would be close as to who would win each cup, so that’s when knowing the shortcuts in levels such as on Rainbow Road or Ghost Valley and using a feather to jump a gap would be the decider in a stage.

Outside of the races, our superiority would be determined in battle mode where you have three balloons circling your kart which the other must pop with the usual items found along the way like shells, stars or pulling out their controller while you devise a plan. That’s right kids – the SNES controllers were on cables, so this was an excellent way to sabotage your friends play. I think this is how UFC was founded.

A New Generation of Super Mario Karters

Fast-forward to reality and Super Mario Kart is as fun as when I first played it. I can’t fathom if my skill has improved in later life or if I’m not as good as I was through old age. Either way, it has all the charm of when I first played it.

Donkey Kong is currently at the top of the leaderboard
Donkey Kong is the top banana

Koopa Trooper was the first port of call, and I went through and finished the 50cc title relatively quickly. Then I moved on to Donkey Kong and realised that he was playable and that apart from the knocks you get that slows you down, he’s a pretty good choice. In this iteration at least.

The other thing I noticed was items could be picked up by driving over the question marks rather than driving through a cube. It shouldn’t be any easier to collect, but NPCs couldn’t take your item which was great. The other racers just seemed to randomly generate their own items.

Karting Made Portable

You can tell that this would be the perfect setup for the DS – two playable screens; the top screen for the action and the bottom to show your map. The screen switches to a rearview mirror when the player behind throws an object. It makes it super easy to dodge, but you can switch to that regardless.

Super Mario Kart was always destined for portable play, as we have seen with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but no one wanted to lug around a SNES, TV and power supply to do so. The controls feel just as good as before, but would be better played on a SNES controller. Thankfully, they’re coming our this month (September 2019), and I may just add them to my wishlist. I much prefer the PAL version to the NTSC as our buttons were more colourful, and I preferred the shape of the PAL SNES.

Koopa takes the 1st place on the podium in Mushroom Cup
Snoop to the Koops!

Anyhoo, this one is more like a diary entry. There’s no point reviewing a SNES Online title as they’re free for anyone with the membership, but if you don’t have the Nintendo Online Membership, I’d say go get it for the year. It’s super cheap and aside from the NES Online games, and these SNES ones, you also get online features for games such as Super Mario Maker 2 and Tetris 99. Maybe not a selling point for all, but if you can play Super Mario Kart without having to buy a SNES Mini, I’m all for it.

Disclaimer: No drivers were hurt in this game – everything was done in the emulation, so regrettably, I haven’t fired a red shell at Bowser or anyone else in real life. For the record, I still think Koopa Trooper is the best.

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